by Valerie Abradi
Rick was able to get off work early on Friday so that we could head to Danvers, settle in, and not be rushed. I had packed everything I needed and then some; I had long-sleeved shirts (one light one, one that zipped, and one heavier one), my short-sleeved TM shirt, shorts, tights, multiple pairs of socks, both my Inov8s, along with all the gear: Garmin, Fuel Belt with 3 bottles, headlamp (one also affixed to my belt), foam roller, Body Glide, 3 Gus (all we had in the house), and Gatorade.
We got to the hotel, checked in, and hooked up with Jamie who was already there. He’d located an Italian restaurant within walking distance to the hotel. We all enjoyed a great pre-race meal. Rick and I headed back to the hotel where he watched hockey and I paced. Oh! And we ran into TM Kate and her friends in the hall. The hotel was full of runners. Made for a nice quiet place to sleep. I was asleep by ten, but up for good by 2:20 am. Kind of a bummer when the alarm was set for 4:17! I tried to go back to sleep, but the best I could do was just not wake up Rick.
The hotel opens their breakfast early for all the runners at 4:30. We headed down at 4:25 expecting a line, but we were just about the first there. I had a english muffin with PBJ and coffee. Back upstairs, I transferred my gear to a smaller bag easier to deal with and we were off.
Then as we neared our turn off from Rte 1 (just 2 miles from the race) we saw a cop car with a cop waving cars past. NO! He seemed very grumpy when we stopped to ask how to get to the race. “Keep going, turn right after McDonald’s.” I wanted to say, “And then what??!!” It seemed like a long detour, but we found the parking and were told there was a shuttle taking runners to the school where the race starts. I grabbed my Fuel Belt, looked for my Garmin…SHIT! I’d left the Garmin back in the room. I started getting a bit flusterd, even grumpy at this point. I also really needed to use the restroom. “How far is it to the school?” 3/4 of a mile, I’m walking. As I lit my headlamp, a van pulled up and asked if we’d rather ride. OK.
(Man! I better get to the race. Hang in there just a little longer, I’ll get there soon)
I went to use the restroom while Rick went to pick up my number. When I got out, there was Danielle. Somehow, that helped a lot. I was able to let go of my bitchiness. She introduced her dad to Rick and me. Then she and I debated what to wear. We’d both already opted for shorts. It seemed warmer than we’d thought it would be. I ended up with my short-sleeved TM shirt under my light, long-sleeved shirt, figuring I could peel off the outer shirt for the second half of the race. George and Ann joined us. With the camaraderie, any remaining tension melted and there was just anticipation. Ann even offered me her Garmin! Very thankful, I declined took Rick’s watch.
Due to the traffic issues, the race start was going to be delayed till 6:30 am (I guess this was only a 15 min. delay, but I had thought the race started at 6). Finally we headed out of the school to the race start. It was a cool sight to see all the runners with their headlamps on. Danielle and I now debated where to position ourselves for the start. I think we did OK. The 50 milers and marathoners start together, but soon us marthoners peel off to get in our 1.2 mile loop (the main loop that we do 2x is 12.5 miles). I don’t even think we were a 1/2 mile in before I was already feeling hot. I peeled off my outer shirt and got ready to fling it to Rick as we looped around the school. He just seemed to be right where I needed him to be as I flung it at him. “Already?” Yup.
Danielle? She had slowed a little. Good thing she had the Garmin and knew we were going to fast. The adrenaline of the start had me heading out too fast. I dropped back with her and we still ran right along, just not sub-9’s! We chatted comfortably, all the while concentrating on the footing with the leaves trying to conceal the roots and rocks from our eyes just getting used to running with the odd lighting of the headlamps.
The inevitable slowdown came when the single track went up the first of what the course had to offer as hills. Even though we expected it AND had tried to convince ourselves the forced slowdown would help rein us in, it was frustrating and we did our best to pass the runners who were mostly walking (as I would have been on hills if I were doing the 50 mile race). Lots of people let us by and wished us well and we tried to be as smart and polite about picking out passing points, but it was obvious we pissed off a couple of runners. Sorry.
There was more of the fire roads (or whatever you call them) than the single track, however, so it wasn’t long before we got to pick up the pace again. Some guys behind us asked what we had in mind for our finish times. They said our pace was well ahead of that. Yeah, but sometimes it’s good to go with it when you’re feeling good and get the miles over. I knew at some point I was going to drop back and let Danielle go it alone, but I wasn’t ready to give up the company and was just feeling too good running.
Somewhere around 4 miles, the group ahead of us parted and were all tip-toeing along the sides of the trail trying to avoid getting their feet wet in the long, deep puddle that had formed between the two bogs on either side of the trail. Danielle, the good Trail Monster that she is : ) ,went right down the middle with me right behind. It was a blast running by all the others and I didn’t even feel bad about splashing them! At this point I was still hot (must have been the adrenaline) and the cold water actually felt good.
Not long after that, we went through the first aid station. Neither Danielle or I required anything so passed more runners here. I think the next stretch of single track would be the last that there was any issue with feeling being held up. It’s really only a line of people that is difficult navigating; a single person, even two, is easy to pass.
Around here, I told Danielle I was going to let her go. I didn’t drop off the pace too much, but didn’t want to be tempted to keep up and making the conscious decision to let her go was good. I think the next few miles were pretty solitary, but enjoyable. I like the course. Most of my training was at Bradbury and the trails behind USM. The course was easier than the training terrain. I felt prepared.
I think in here is where I passed George. He was in his own world filled with music. I tapped his on his arm and we talked for a time. Ever the good coach, he reminded me of what was to come and when I should be thinking to just go for it. He offered me his Garmin and said he could pick it up for his 3rd lap. Do they get any sweeter?! No thank you, I was doing fine with just the time. I told him how strong he looked. And he did. And happy. And then continued on.
All of a sudden Danielle came from the woods; she’d needed a pit stop. After a little stretch together, she picked up her pace and I think I kept to mine. OK…PAUSE…TMI ALERT: While pooh may be funny, periods mostly aren’t. Continue to the next paragraph if you want to avoid the topic…. This was another pre-race concern and why I resented the delayed start. I was timing tampon changes trying to minimize the number necessary in the woods. At this point in the race I noticed a bank that kind of blocked the view of approaching runners. Given that most people aren’t looking at scenery, I felt this afforded me the most private location for a pit stop. It was perfect timing all around. I swear I couldn’t have gone another 100 feet without the dreaded leak. Having dealt with this before, I was well prepared and was back on the trail feeling good in no time. Oh, just so I won’t have to have another TMI alert…I’ll include the rest here. I managed to make it through to the finish without another stop, but had only enough time for Rick to pluck off my shoes before I made as quick of a beeline as I could manage for the restroom. Again, not a moment too soon. Period.
I was feeling cold for the first time, probably due to stopping. I went to get my gloves out of my belt, but found I only had one. I put it on and just alternated between hands. It actually helped some.
Soon I was back to where the runners who’d completed their first lap were heading back out (the course is like a lollipop with a huge candy portion and a very short stick). I was able to shout to Jamie who was already off the stick and onto the second lap of the candy. Woohoo! Then came Danielle. Woohoo!!!!!
Now I was running down the field to the school and Rick was running out to meet me and find out what I needed. I gave him my bottles to refill with Gatorade and made my way to the turn-around cone. By the time I had a Gatorade at the aid station there, Rick had my bottles filled and ready to go!
Back out feeling good. My ankle that I’d worried about since I twisted it a few days before was a little stiff/sore, but easily runnable. There were no slowdowns on any singletrack now. I continued running all uphills and pressing on the road portions. This time that big long puddle was less fun; I didn’t get to pass any one by running through it AND it made my feet cold and they were slow to warm up (Did they?). Just when I was starting to feel too cold, I found my other glove on the trail, still in good condition. I took that as a positive sign. Really. It’s amazing how much something like that can affect your outlook.
Oh, I’ve babbled about nearly everything, but haven’t mentioned fuel. I only had the 3 GUs with me so felt a need to ration. Normally I would try to have one every 45 minutes, but stretched it out to an hour. Pulling into the 1st aid station of the second lap, I decided to eat something to make up for the missing fuel. I was pleasantly surprised to see TM Erik there waiting on people. I had a couple cups of Gatorade, a PBJ section, and a wedge of potato dipped in salt. Mmmmm….Thank you wonderful volunteers; you’re very much appreciated.
Now my piriformis problem started acting up. The nerve had my left calf burning/stabbing, my left heel numb, and twinges in the butt cheek itself. Still, this was very runnable. I don’t like it when it makes me feel like my ITB is misbehaving. That gets very painful. Besides, my right big toe joint was out paining everything at this point. It might be hard to believe, but I left out something about pre-race (even something I could whine about)….When I put on my right shoe, my toe hurt. I decided it was my new socks and promptly change into my old pair that I’d brought. It felt slightly better. Well, that toe now was reminding me of much pain my left toe was in when I actually went to see the doctor to see if I could have gout. (Turns out they suspect I have arthritis in both big toes and prescribed a topical anti inflammatory drug. Somehow, the idea that I have a prescription is all I really need, but I never fill them.) The point is my toe really hurt. Each little fluctuation in the footing reinforced how much.
I noticed my pace slowing. Not much I was going to do about it at this point, but I was able to keep running even up the hills. It was always a boost to be able to pick off someone on a climb; it made the pain much more palatable. It was during this stretch that I missed the Garmin. I truly wanted to know just how much farther I had left.
The next aid station! Yay! Two more cups of Coke and I was off. I was going to have the last GU, but my hands weren’t really functioning well and I decided to just focus on running. Did I mention how much my big toe joint hurt? I really wanted that Garmin.
Oh!!! There’s the old, wreck of a car. I think that means less than two miles to go. I started picking up the pace. I had a chance to beat 4:30:00. Runners going the opposite way. Remember to cheer them on; they’re going a lot farther. The field! I see Rick running towards me and then joining me. He offered to take stuff, but I couldn’t even be bothered changing anything. I focused on the clock at the end of the field. I needed to run faster, faster. I think I really was sprinting and not just in comparison to what I had been doing. When I crossed the line I saw 4:29:1x! The results aren’t in so I don’t know the official time and I never remember to stop my watch. I almost hyperventilated. Rick got my shoes off. Ouch! Done : )
I want to do this one again. It’d be cool if all the runners in this house could do it next year : )